FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Judging by Brad’s current speaking and teaching schedule—and his priority to make Volume 1 available in digital and Spanish editions—Volume 3, Roof Catchments and Cistern Systems, will likely be available no sooner than 2017. If you would like to receive notification once Volume 3 is available, please scroll to the box on the left side of any page of this website to sign up for Brad’s email list.
I live in an environment that receives more rain than an arid region such as Tucson. Do the principles in Brad’s books still apply?
The principles work everywhere. What changes is the plant palette. If you have more consistent/abundant rain, use plants and trees that require or can tolerate more water to grow shade, food, medicine, native wildlife habitat, etc. Where appropriate, Brad recommends setting up a system whereby any supplemental watering of gardens or landscape plants comes from non-potable onsite sources such as rainwater, stormwater, or greywater — just as he does in Tucson. If you have even more rainwater available, consider using it in the home in addition to outdoor uses.
We recommend calling ahead to each location to assure that they have Brad’s books in stock.
Antigone Books on Fourth Ave,
Revolutionary Grounds on Fourth Ave,
Native Seeds/SEARCH on Campbell Ave,
Originate Natural Building Materials on N Ninth Ave,
Desert Survivors on Starr Pass,
The Nature Conservancy’s gift shop on Fort Lowell, or the
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum gift shop on Kinney Road.
Or you can email us to see about picking books up directly from us.
Also, the Book Stop on Fourth Ave sometimes carries damaged or previous-edition copies of Brad’s books.
Changing Hands Bookstore on S McClintock Drive
Flagstaff Native Plant & Seed
Museum of Northern Arizona bookstore
Winter Sun Trading Company
Albuquerque: La Montanita Coop, Valley and Nob Hill Locations
Santa Fe: La Montanita Coop on West Alameda
ELSEWHERE IN THE U.S.: Check with the folks at your local independent bookseller in order to support your community – if they don’t carry Brad’s books, any bookstore can special-order them through Brad’s distributor, Chelsea Green.
AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND: Brad’s books are currently available through the Permaculture Research Institute’s web store, and can likely be ordered through your local bookstore.
Are Brad’s books available in any other languages than English, or other regions of the world besides North America and Australia/New Zealand?
Volume 1 is now available in Arabic! See the home page of this website for links to more information. In addition, we are working on making Brad’s books available in Spanish, and would consider working with a foreign publisher or distributor who is interested in purchasing foreign rights for their country or region. Please contact us if this is up your alley and you have or know of resources to help make these projects happen! Our U.S. distributor works with distributors in other countries, so talk to your local bookstore about ordering Brad’s books. You can use the contact link above if you need help tracking down the name of the distributor that serves your region.
Most of the videos on this site are not Brad’s property, and therefore he alone cannot grant you permission for their use. However, if you contact the producer(s) of the video(s) you are interested in and they grant you permission, then Brad is fine with your use of these videos, provided you give proper credit to the producer and to HarvestingRainwater.com.
Thank you for asking first! Brad is always happy to have you cite his work in your paper or presentation, or include a link on your website to credit his work. If you’re interested in using 10 or fewer of Brad’s images (the low-res versions downloadable from his website), then you have his permission as long as you clearly watermark/caption any unmarked images with “© HarvestingRainwater.com.” There is no need to specify which volume of Brad’s book series the images are taken from. If you want the original, high-res version, there is a fee for this: $50 for up to 5 images. If you are interested in using a photo/image that credits someone other than Brad, please email us to find out if we are able to grant such permission, and if so, with what stipulations. Also contact us if you are interested in publishing a photo/image in a book.
Brad considers this on a case-by-case basis. Please indicate which page of Brad’s site you think would be the best fit for your product or service. On rare occasions, Brad will create a new resource page if you provide something Brad would like to support but for which he has not yet begun a list. The standard fee to list your business/organization name, 1-2 sentence description, and web address or phone number is $550 for 5 years for businesses, or a discounted rate for nonprofits of $150 for 5 years. We reserve the right to edit your description for content or tone. Click here for the web-based form to submit web listings.
Does Brad do interviews for radio, TV, newspaper & magazine articles, books-in-progress, films, et cetera?
Yes! Please send us an email with an outline of what you are hoping for, both scope- and content-wise, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
The good news is that there are a lot of resources out there! Many are referenced elsewhere on this website, but a good summary, courtesy of Tucson Water, can be downloaded by clicking here.
Here’s what Brad recommends, but keep in mind that many of these resources are location-specific, although they might serve as models of what to look for in your region:
– Watershed Management Group: apply for one of their courses, some of which Brad has taught in the past and may well teach in the future.
– American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA): Take their accreditation course.
– Watch for Carbon Farming Classes that might be coming your region — recent ones have taken place in Tennessee and California.
– Check oasisdesign.net for greywater workshops.
– Josh Robinson of the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute sometimes travels to teach and speak—Brad recommends Josh as a great resource.
– Start in on projects at your own home to gain hands-on experience. Brad doesn’t think you should need a contractor’s license to do small jobs for other people, but look into your local regulations on this just to be sure.
– Starting small and getting momentum going might well be your best strategy.
Yes, Brad offers local-to-Tucson consultation services. On rare occasions, he might be available for on-site consultation while traveling; please check the events page of the website to see where he currently has plans to be when. His onsite consultation rate is $100/hour; a typical consult takes about 2 hours. Remote consultation can be a challenge but feel free to inquire whether this might work in your case (note that fees are slightly higher). If you are interested in pursuing any type of consultation, Brad recommends (but does not require) that, in order to get the most out of the consultation, you educate yourself in advance by doing as many of the following as possible:
For a rainwater-harvesting, greywater-harvesting, permaculture, or integrated sustainable design consultation:
For a greywater consultation, in addition to Volume 1 (2nd ed.):
a) Check out the Greywater-Harvesting Image Gallery on this website — click on each image to make it larger and to view the caption;
b) Take a look at Volume 2 of his Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond (available through the local library if you don’t own it) — Chapter 12 is specifically on greywater;
c) Take a look at Art Ludwig’s book Create an Oasis with Greywater — the definitive book of its kind; and finally,
d) Think about which possible sources of greywater you would want to tap, and what living things you would want your greywater to feed.
If Brad is going to be in your area within a time frame that would work for your situation and you’d like to inquire about hiring Brad to consult (see above), send us an email. However, without doing an on-site consult and asking a lot more questions (which he is too busy to be able to do), Brad is not able to provide much in the way of assistance. We suggest doing a web search for a local-to-you permaculturist, naturally-inclined landscaper, common-sense plumber, or other professional in your area who specializes in water issues, and who could be hired to come out to your site to consult and advise. See Companies Implementing Water-Harvesting Systems/Components for leads.
Brad has expended quite a bit of time, energy, and thought on creating the various resource pages of this website. Please navigate around (or use the search box on the left side of each web page) to see what information has already been compiled on this site for your convenience and benefit. After you have done your homework and searched the website, if you are still not finding the information you need, then feel free to email in your question. Note: there is a “tip jar” located on the left side of each page [coming soon] which you can use to say thanks to Brad for lending his expertise to your project, and to help support his ability to keep pace with recent developments and applications of water harvesting. Thank you!
Is it safe to drink rainwater harvested off my roof, or use it (or street runoff) to irrigate my vegetable garden?
This is a short question with no single short answer. While Brad has drunk harvested rainwater from less-than-pristine sources, and eats fruit and bean pods from trees irrigated with street runoff (note that the runoff does not come in contact with the edible portions), he cannot say for sure that these habits are without risk. Use your own judgment, and, if you’d like to catch up on some recent science about rainwater quality when harvested from various roofing materials, follow this link to an article on the topic, or download the complete study (PDF, ~1.2 MB) here: Effect of Roof Material on Water Quality for Rainwater Harvesting Systems. If you run across similar articles or studies elsewhere, please feel free to send a note about them to admin@HarvestingRainwater.com.
Brad does not yet have an active internship program, but if you would like him to consider you, please email us with what specific permaculture topics you are most interested in, what you think you would want to do with the skills and experiences you would come away with, what your time frame is, how many hours per week you could work, what your tolerance level is for the less-glamorous end of the spectrum of possible assignments, and whether you would be willing to work on an unpaid basis — that sort of information would be helpful.
Since Brad travels a lot and manages to stay very busy when he is in town, we recommend you begin by checking out this great local resource map of water-harvesting demonstrations sites and more, put together by Mead Mier at PAG (Pima Associations of Governments). If you are super-motivated to set up a visit with Brad, he can sometimes accommodate such requests, especially if your timing is right and you’re able and willing either to volunteer your time and energy toward one of his current projects, or if you’re willing to pay $100 per hour (need-based discounts available for schools and educational programs) for tour and/or Q & A time—you may bring a total of up to 20 people for this fee to lower the per-person cost and increase the spread of information. If either option sounds interesting, first please check the events page for a preliminary sense of Brad’s availability and then send us an email with a few dates and times that seem promising. Please note: non-school-based paid tours must be prepaid by PayPal or check to reserve a spot in Brad’s calendar.
As simple as it might sound, all Brad did to sow the seeds of excitement and action among his neighbors in the Dunbar-Spring neighborhood of Tucson was to start small in his own yard and the right-of-way (between the curb and the sidewalk) in front of his property. Once his neighbors saw what he was doing and how his property was gradually transforming for the better, their interest was sparked. And this process is ongoing. If things don’t work – fix them. Do not promote problems or mistakes. Instead, learn from your mistakes by striving for and finding solutions you can share/promote. Monitor and document ‘before’ and ‘after’ conditions with photos, data, and more. After you have successful on-the-ground work in motion, you can share images of the transformation, and even data on water saved, productivity of vegetation, temperature differences, wildlife counts, soil and water quality, etc. This way you will gradually become one of your community’s authentic “inperts” (a local expert), as Brad did. But it’s important to have the actual experience to back up your words. And you don’t have to go at it alone: work with other interested folk for more fun, teamwork, and creativity.
There are plans for a big project in my area, and I’m not so sure it is the best way to address the situation we are facing. Do you have any advice on how to promote productive, resilient, integrated, and regenerative alternatives to comparatively unsustainable municipal/corporate/centralized/conventional single-use water-treatment/water-source/flood-control projects?
Start by learning about the proposed project’s reasons/goals for existing, and its pros and cons. Research alternatives/changes that could also meet/exceed the beneficial goals. The idea is to present positive, delicious, workable, integrated solutions that do more for less. The more compelling images, data, and working case studies/templates you have, the better, so others can easily see what you are trying to convey.
You may find useful examples and frameworks in the resources below:
The foreword to Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2;
Our Water-Harvesting Images page;
Blue Covenant, a book by Maude Barlow — includes activism information;
Flow, a movie that also includes stories of activism projects;
Seattle’s SEA Streets project — they’ve had great success with reduction in stormwater runoff and increase in water quality.
Do you have any information or links to research on combining water harvesting with flood-mitigation strategies?
Many thanks to LeeAnn Lane, an independent researcher who compiled the following list of resources on this topic!
1. EPA website: www.epa.gov/owow_keep/NPS/lid/video.html
This website contains two videos that highlight techniques for capturing rainwater and reducing stormwater runoff. Water-harvesting practices include cistern installation, porous pavers, rain gardens, green roofs and rain barrels.
2. WERF (Water Environment Research Foundation): www.werf.org/liveablecommunities/index.htm
Using Rainwater to Grow Livable Communities – Sustainable Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs)
Excellent resource, wealth of information. Take some time to look at the various links, including “Toolbox” and “Case Studies.”
Includes: “Basic principles,” “Strategies for Success,” and “Stormwater BMPs”
Case Studies: www.werf.org/liveablecommunities/studies_main.htm
Cities included: Chicago, LA, Denver, Orlando, Seattle, and many more
3. Portland (OR) Bureau of Environmental Services (Programs): www.portlandonline.com/bes/index.cfm?c=32122
Many of Portland’s stormwater management practices include on-site rainwater harvesting. See “Sustainable Stormwater” and “Downspout Disconnection” for specific programs, case studies, etc.
Greenstreets — Portland has retrofitted a number of streets with landscaped curb extensions, swales, planter strips, pervious pavement, and street trees to intercept and infiltrate stormwater. These Green Street projects demonstrate ways to address street runoff, which is an important source of stormwater as streets comprise 35 percent of the City’s impervious surface.
Ecoroofs — vegetated roof systems that decrease runoff and offer aesthetic, air quality, habitat, and energy benefits.
Also see Clean Rivers Reward Program: www.portlandonline.com/bes/index.cfm?c=50090
Clean River Rewards is Portland’s stormwater discount program. When you contain the rain on your property, you qualify for up to a 100% discount on your onsite stormwater management charge. (This site includes lots of links to more water-harvesting information.)
Great resource: www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=144648
Residential and Commercial, Stormwater Management Site Assessment Guide
4. Interesting article from USA Today about Portland’s stormwater management
5. Broadview Green Grid project, a Seattle Public Utilities Natural Drainage Systems (NDS): www2.seattle.gov/util/tours/Broadview/slide1.htm
Website includes brief descriptions for a series of drainage and street design innovations used to mitigate stormwater, control flooding and improve water quality.
6. Brief overview of water harvesting combined with flood mitigation in Japan and Korea.
Four-page report, “Rainwater Harvesting and Disaster Management”
7. Interesting 14-page report about groundwater recharge in Texas rangeland, and also mentions how vegetation and soil conditions can affect runoff. Poor rangeland conditions result in storm/flood flow (water runoff), increasing stream flow volumes. Improved rangeland conditions (increased vegetation cover) resulted in greater infiltration capacity, reduced storm water run off, and increased water storage in soil and ground water recharge.
8. In addition, Brad has a lot of information on his website and in his books concerning this topic. A few examples from Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2:
a. See the foreword by Andy Lipkis for description of “Hall House,” a retrofitted home that included earthworks and roof-fed cisterns. In a simulated 1,500-year flood event, 4,000 gallons of water fell on the property in one day and remained onsite. YouTube video of Hall House event: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRGKEOm2sPY
b. Page 135: “Infiltration Basins as Alternatives to Flood-Control Detention and Retention Basins”
Example: Milagro Cohousing
c. Page 190: “Controlling Floods and Pollution”
Does water harvesting really make a difference in groundwater levels and volumes of spring flows? Is there proof of this?
Many thanks to LeeAnn Lane, an independent researcher who compiled the following list of resources on this topic!
1. “Effectiveness of recharge from a surface reservoir to an underlying unconfined aquifer.” (1991)
Brief, 6-page report. Research specific to rates of water infiltration per Saudi Arabia reservoir, but references a study in Texas. “Dammed river recharge has been recommended for flood control, a management tool and/or water conservation technique for Edward’s limestone aquifer in Texas (Green, 1967).” See report for full reference.
Also per report: Up to 94.5% of surface reservoir water infiltrates into the soil, resulting in a measurable increase in downstream groundwater flow. Report contains very interesting graph that clearly illustrates how volume of water infiltration affects increase in groundwater flow. Also, note the length of time between change in infiltration rate and corresponding groundwater flow (approximately 2 weeks in this study).
2. “The Observed Effects of Stormwater Infiltration on Groundwater” (2009)
Villanova University thesis study, 145-page report. On-campus study indicated that rain storm events larger than 0.75 inches resulted in “groundwater mounding.” Mounding occurs when groundwater rises more quickly than can be moved in a downward flow. Report also compares groundwater elevation changes for two different areas – small grassy area vs. parking lot/roadway area. Grassy area results in delayed but prolonged positive groundwater elevation change whereas paved areas resulted in rapid rise and decline of groundwater elevation. Report also discusses water quality of each area and how temperature affects groundwater mounding. Includes graphs.
3. Aquifer storage area – Ogden, Utah
Pilot project to determine affects on aquifer with artificial groundwater recharge. River water was diverted into shallow ponds (1-2 feet deep), covering an area of 3.7 acres and receiving approximately 800 acre feet (AF) of water. Results indicated that groundwater rose by 1 foot in monitoring well. “A low-permeability layer (a sediment layer that allows water to move through it less readily than adjacent layers) about 120 feet below the land surface at the project site caused the infiltrating ground water to spread laterally, resulting in lower water-level increases at the monitoring well than were anticipated prior to the experiment.” Within same time period, nearby wells without artificial recharge dropped 4-10 feet.
4. “Groundwater responses to artificial recharge of rainwater in Chennai, India: a case study in an educational institution campus.” (2010)
A 7-page technical report. Conclusion: “In a period of four years, the recharge is very effective in increasing the level of the water table in the study area and also some groundwater flow appears to take place especially in the northern part of the study area to further downstream. This case study brings to light the importance of microlevel management of water sources that may influence the sustainable management of water as a common property resource.”
5. India, Delhi: increase in groundwater level in rainwater harvesting sites
Press release: www.irc.nl/page/10480,
Rainwater harvesting can recharge the declining groundwater levels in cities. Data from 11 rainwater-harvesting projects spread across Delhi show an increase of 5 to10 meters in the groundwater levels over two years. These are the results of a survey from May 2002 to May 2004 on the level of groundwater in rainwater harvesting sites, carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
See CSE website for more information: www.rainwaterharvesting.org/Urban/Model-Projects.htm
6. The Edward’s Aquifer website (Hill Country, Texas)
The Edwards Aquifer is a unique groundwater system and one of the most prolific artesian aquifers in the world. It is one of the greatest natural resources on Earth, serving the diverse agricultural, industrial, recreational, and domestic needs of almost two million users in south central Texas.
This website contains a lot of area specific information concerning Hill Country and local geography, including limestone. I did a site search for “infiltration” and another for “springflow” and found several articles/reports discussing the topic.
Interesting graphs depicting Edward’s estimated aquifer recharge (1934-2008), stream- and spring-discharge rates, area annual precipitation, etc.
A 14-page report that discusses dryland area stream flow trends and factors affecting change. Information includes: vegetation trends affected stream flow. Poor rangeland conditions result in storm/flood flow (water run off), increasing stream flow volumes. Improved rangeland conditions (increased vegetation cover) resulted in greater infiltration capacity, reduced storm water run off, and increased water storage in soil and ground water recharge.